The weather outside was not frightful, after all. If there was a wonderland, it was not wintery. Noses everywhere were left decidedly unnipped by Jack Frost.
The songs were wrong. Winter this year was little more than a rumor at best and a mild inconvenience at worst.
Which brings us to the present. The calendar thinks it is late May, but Mother Nature was tricked into thinking it is already early June. And in these parts, early June means one thing: strawberries.
The strawberry crop is in, or it is almost in, or it will be in soon. So the local U-pick berry farms are gearing up to open soon.
"It's a beautiful crop coming in, and we did a heck of a lot of frost control," said Marilyn Whittaker of Whittaker's Berry Farms in Ida, Mich. And although the family-run farm would prefer to open after Memorial Day, it looks like they will be opening later this week.
"There's a 99 percent chance of that, yes," she said.
Johnston's Fruit Farm in Swanton also should be open soon for folks to pick their own strawberries, and if you want to avoid the work you can buy them already picked either at the farm (which you can also do at Whittaker's) or at the Whitehouse Flower Market Saturday in Whitehouse.
The Freedom Farm Market in Delta is also almost ready with its strawberries, and Stevens Gardens in Monclova is likewise anticipating that its berries will be ripe for the picking later this week. If you're in the Fremont area, don't forget Polter's Berry Farm. Same deal there: Start looking for them to open toward the weekend.
Remember, it isn't the beginning of summer unless your fingers are stained red.
You have a big gathering of family and/or friends. You've bought a lot of corn. You've shucked a lot of corn. And now the time has come to cook a lot of corn.
But that can be hard, because corn is, you know, big. And you can't squeeze more than a few in a pot, even a big pot. So how do you cook up a mess of corn so that it all comes out done at the same time?
We'll tell you, but first this linguistic note: The colloquial word "mess," meaning "a whole bunch of," can properly be used to describe only a few food-related items. One of these is corn. Another is catfish.
Now back to our food tip, which is this: Make cooler corn.
Contrary to what you may think, cooler corn is not corn that is unusually hip and that wears great shades and maybe a leather jacket. Cooler corn is corn that is cooked in a cooler.
Shuck it, throw it in a cooler (make sure the cooler is clean first), pour a couple of pots of boiling water over it, and close the lid. In 30 minutes, you will have what we are told is perfectly cooked corn. Or you can wait a couple of hours and (we are still told) it will continue to be perfectly cooked.
We're guessing the outdoorsy people who first thought of this have probably never heard of sous vide. We're also guessing that beer was involved in its creation. But if you want to feel fancy when you make it, you can tell yourself that the principle behind cooler corn is the same one that is behind some of the most expensive of preparations in the snootiest of restaurants.
Healthy vs. not
The assumption, and it seems plausible, is that most food in its natural state is healthy and good for us. The corollary to this assumption is that the more these natural foods are altered and manipulated, the less healthy and worse they are for us.
Additives, some say, are bad news.
So the Toledo Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation will offer another class in its Healthy Living series, this one called Kitchen Transition -- Shopping for Health. Chapter leader Kris Johnson will discuss what to buy at the grocery store and what to avoid. Then she will demonstrate how to make a quick and easy salad, which will be shared among the attendees.
The class will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Fellowship Chapel of Grace Lutheran Church, 4441 Monroe St. As always, the class is free, but if you feel moved to make a donation the foundation will feel moved to accept it.
For reservations or more information, call Ms. Johnson at 419-836-7637.
It's rhubarb season, which means a lot of people who don't like rhubarb will not be affected in the least by it.
But some of us like rhubarb. So it is for us that we print this recipe for rhubarb chutney, which is said to have been popular in Victorian times, especially as a garnish or condiment with roasted meats and wild game. So there.
6 cups chopped rhubarb
1 large green apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup chopped red onions
1 cup dried currants
1/2 cup peeled and chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine the rhubarb with the apple, onions, currants, celery, and garlic in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, red wine, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower the heat and cook for about 30 minutes, or until mixture is thick. Immediately pour into hot sterilized jars, and cap.
Shelf life by refrigeration: 6 weeks
Yield: 1 quart (four 1/2-pint jars)
Source: The Best Little Book of Preserves & Pickles, by Judith Choat
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